Mid-winter in NZ also marks the half way point of the New Zealand Rally Championship – Rally South Canterbury. And judging by the massive entry list of 90 cars, many, like myself, are looking forward to this one.
The Timaru rally has only been back in the championship for a few years, but is already proving to be one of the more popular events on the calendar. It has a different character again, to the previous two events with the very fast, flattish stages proving less of a technical challenge than previous rounds. But, with the stages being so fast and the many blind crests, those with good pace-notes and commitment, will do well here. Fast rallies also see smaller time differences between teams which means we should expect close competition amongst everyone, particularly the top five.
This season, the competition level in the NZ championship has certainly stepped, particularly with some of the young drivers coming through. Already proven himself in the previous events, speed-wise, I expect Robbie Stokes to be right at the front and it’s really cool to see his progress after working with him closely in the past.
Returning to ‘home’ is always a special feeling for me. South Canterbury is where I grew up and where my motorsport career started with the support of so many people in the community. While not living there now, South Canterbury and Geraldine is always home and it’s great to go back and see everyone.
The home advantage here is not so huge – while I used to drive the stages a lot 16 -ears ago as part of my ‘long route’ to school, now days I drive them no more than anyone else. In fact, drivers like Matt Summerfield (main picture) and Robbie Stokes, who did the rally as a non-championship event last year, will be in a good position to bounce on that experience being that most of the stages are the same configuration – so will be interesting.
Despite it being a single day rally, 10 special stages means there is plenty of distance to cover. All bar one of the stages are fast public road stages, with the second stage being a narrow, technical 20km forestry stage. This could well be the key stage of the event, especially being so early in the day. It will be key to make sure you are awake from the opening stage.
We have seen a high attrition rate in the previous events, but now with a couple of events under everyone’s belts, that should of given most teams a chance to iron out any mechanical issues with their cars and as the season progresses, I would expect an increase in finishing rates.
Rain, hail or shine, I can’t wait for this weekend. We have prepared well, and we are expecting other teams to be close to us for this event. We are looking forward to doing battle on the stages I grew up on many years ago.
See you there